MARYSVILLE, Wash. — Up to six armed civilians pulled their guns on shoplifters in Marysville, and several opened fire as the suspects tried to get away.
It led to Marysville police arresting two suspects – men in their early 20s who were trying to steal tools from Coastal Farm & Ranch.
“I heard gunshots, two, and then three,” said Brandy Sundin, who works at Cosmo Prof Beauty next door.
“I saw police everywhere,” said Daniel Cruz, who was in the area at the time.
This was two days before Christmas and the strip mall parking lot was crowded.
“There were shots fired in this parking lot at Coastal Farm & Ranch so obviously that generated a large police response,” said Commander Mark Thomas of the Marysville Police Department.
Police say two shoplifters, Maxfield Allen, 22, and Matthew Foster, 23, took a few nail guns worth more than $400 each.
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They ran to their green Honda Civic in the parking lot and got in. That's when as many as six customers surrounded the car and pulled out their guns.
“One of them stood in front of the car and drew his side arm, and had it in the low ready position,” Thomas said.
According to court documents, that civilian heard one of the suspects say, “He won't shoot, run him over.”
“The car left and struck him, causing him to fall,” Thomas said.
As the suspects sped away, Marysville police said two other citizens fired into the tires of the vehicle, flattening both tires on the driver side.
It had other businesses in the lot taking cover.
“My manager said are those gunshots? And I said absolutely, lock the door. And we locked the door right away and went to the back of the store,” Sundin said.
“Always thinking about a stray bullet, could it enter the store? Through the window? Could it hit one of us, one of our customers?” said Doug Wagner of Wagner Jewelers.
Marysville police said the two suspects ditched the car a few blocks away.
K-9 units found them hiding in the area and police arrested both men.
Now police also want to talk with the civilians who opened fire.
“They're not necessarily in trouble,” KIRO7’s Deedee Sun said.
“We don't know that yet, certainly they could've been acting lawfully,” Thomas said. “But if it's important enough to fire a weapon at a moving vehicle in a crowded parking lot, it's certainly important enough to stay behind to (talk to) officers who are going to be investigating the case,” he said.
The incident has people divided – some are giving praise.
“It was nice of the people to try to help prevent shoplifting and thieves,” said Heidi Fisher, who works at a bar nearby.
“Bless their hearts for doing that,” said Shari Farrens, who lives in the area.
But others are questioning the actions of the civilians who opened fire.
“I thought, what are you doing? You're going to get shot,” Cruz said.
“I have a concealed weapons permit but I don't believe I would've drawn a pistol on them,” said Mike Curtis, a Coastal customer.
Police say either way, the civilians escalated the situation.
“This is a really good example of how a shoplift turned into a robbery that turned into a shots fired call. At the end of the day it was four nail guns,” Thomas said.
Court documents say one of the men admitted they were stealing tools and selling them to support their drug habits.
Both were charged with robbery in the first degree.